The Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners tabled the reappointment of County Engineer Bruce Cochran and the approval of a bid for the spraying of noxious weeds during their May 21 meeting.

Despite being required to appoint a county engineer by the end of May, a motion by Commissioner Genny Reynolds to reappoint Cochran failed because it was not seconded by any other commissioner.

The board voted to hold a special meeting May 28 – later moved to May 30 due to a scheduling conflict – regarding the required appointment of the county engineer position. 

Commissioner Phil Peterson voted against the motion for the special meeting.

 “I did not think prolonging the decision would accomplish anything. I am of the mindset to have the discussion and make the decision and move forward,” Peterson stated in a follow-up email.

Peterson said it’s not that he doesn’t support the reappointment of Cochran but that he wanted additional discussion about what other commissioners are thinking.

Reynolds, the lone vote to reappoint Cochran, wrote via email “I cannot speak for the other commissioners but I feel Bruce Cochran is professional, operates with integrity, has attention to detail and always makes decisions in the best interest to the county.”

Cochran, whose four-year term will end Dec. 31, 2019, said he wasn’t sure why the board is holding a special meeting to discuss his reappointment but that he had talked to some commissioners. Cochran declined to comment on those conversations.

“I’m a little in the dark myself,” said Reynolds, regarding why the other commissioners did not vote to approve Cochran’s reappointment.

Commissioner Timothy Wilheim declined to comment on Cochran’s reappointment. 

Commissioners Roger Tellinghuisen and David Oslin did not respond to a media request for comment regarding Cochran’s reappointment.

There are no other candidates for the position.

Bids to spray noxious weeds in the county will also be discussed during the May 30 special meeting. 

The agenda item was tabled because the board and Cochran, who is responsible for hiring a vendor, questioned whether the lowest bidder gave an accurate quote, which is less than half of the other two bids for spraying.

“I’m very skeptical of [the quote],” said Cochran during the May 21 meeting. Cochran and multiple board members questioned whether the bidder’s quote was paying minimum wage.

During the May 21 meeting, the board also approved a payment to Kelly, Wolter & Scott totaling $55,806.50 and Nolan, Thompson & Leighton totaling $21,418.93 for legal services relating to the federal lawsuit filed by the Band of Ojibwe against Mille Lacs County regarding policing rights on the Ojibwe reservation.

A summary provided by County Administrator Pat Oman estimates that to date, the county has spent more than $400,000 on legal services associated with the lawsuit 

In other actions, the Mille Lacs County Board of Commissioners:

•Approved per diem and mileage payment to Commissioner Genny Reynolds totaling $1,192.50 for the month of May;

•Approved an amendment to the Remote Electronic Alcohol Monitoring grant for an additional $2,000 which brings the total grant to $12,000 per fiscal year;

•Approved a purchase of service agreement for a new adult foster care provider for 2019-2020;

•Approved staff time to attend the Mille Lacs Lakes Area Operation Community Connect June 3 from 10 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the Onamia Elementary School;

•Accepted a donation of a pontoon from Lybacks Marine for the purpose of dive, rescue and buoy placement. The total donation value is estimated at $18,043.69 which includes labor for pontoon improvements;

•Authorized the city of Princeton to close CSAH 29 and 31 for the Rum River Festival Parade June 8 from 1 to 5 p.m.;

•Authorized the city of Princeton to close sections of CSAH 29 and 31 for the Princeton Block Party July 26, noon to 10 p.m.;

•Approved a new fee schedule for filing and requesting documents with the county;

•Approved a contract for vegetation removal on county ditch No. 3 for $153,000;

•Approved a county agricultural inspector work plan for 2019 for the enforcement of the Minnesota Noxious Weed law;

•Approved a revised credit card policy for an additional credit card for use by the jail administrator in the county sheriff’s office. Now, nine credit cards are in use by the county, each with a credit limit of $7,500;

•Authorized a letter of confirmation for a low-income housing tax credit application;

•Approved out of state travel for a county veterans service officer to attend a CVSO training conference in Cleveland, Ohio from June 2-7, 2019. Total expenses are estimated at $1,920. The training is required for CVSO certification.

Mark Wasson is an APG of East Central Minnesota freelance contributing reporter who covers municipal and county government.

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